Day 31 – Leaving kickoff with our stomachs full of fresh fruit, granola & b-fast burritos, we headed back to Idyllwild so we could do a chunk of the San Jacintos we’d missed due to snow storms. We decided to head up Deer Springs Trail and do a loop including parts of the PCT and also passing right by the 10,800 foot peak of San J himself.
As we started off Dan was struck by horrible cramps in his calves. A week of 20 mile days, immediately followed by 3 days of little walking wasn’t the best combo. Eventually the cramps subsided and we enjoyed pleasant weather and snow-free trails until the trail curved around to San J’s north face. The sky was still blue above us, but below us the trail was soon solid snow. After a while the footprints we’d been following disappeared as well. Using our map & compass we travelled eastward in the pines, through which we occationally glimpse the snowy mountains of Big Bear.
Our snowy traverse wasn’t dangerous but it was exhasting. The thick snowy was slippery despite our traction aids and the little “hills” at 10,000 feet blocked our view of the main mountain. Upon reaching a ridge we decided we’d had enough “fun” in the snow and we could do without peak baggin’ San J… So we cut our own loop through the snow to arrive on the snow-less south ridge. We knew the trail was a few thousand feet below us, now it was just a matter of bushwacking down to it. Knee to waist-high branches covered the terrain as we bounced down along their sharp branches. Walking in the thick snow had been difficult, but this was much worse. The bushes disguised uneven terrain and quickly encapsulated your weary legs. When the last bushes finally catapulted us onto a meadow we were overjoyed. And our joy was made complete by seeing the trail only a few feet beyond.
With gorgeous views of Tahquitz Peak we followed the trail, which became snowy again. There we encountered another thru-hiker and a JMT-hiker-in-training who were lost. We helped them get orientated and were soon on hard soil again. Without snow or bushwacking to slow us down, we headed back to the car almost jogging. Our muscles ached but we wanted to get back to LA before my grandparents went to bed. We made it, murmured goodnight to them and colapsed into bed.